Two teams that know well the perils a National Football League team faces after losing a Super Bowl meet Sunday night in Santa Clara when the San Francisco 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams.
Two seasons ago, the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, and last year had the wheels come off their 2019 campaign. The Rams went from the National Football Conference Champions to an also-ran that had more trouble than a beekeeper dipped in honey.
Last season, the 49ers lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they have only been able to beat two winless teams since, the New York Giants and Jets. San Francisco lost on opening day to NFC West Division rival Arizona, and the Cardinals have only managed wins against league weaklings since, namely the Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
It has gotten worse for the 49ers since that opening defeat, having lost key players in New York while winning on the scoreboard against the Jets. Injuries rippled through the 49ers organization like the Coronavirus at a Trump Rally.
In New York, their runningbacks spent more time under the blue sideline medical tent than in the Niners backfield. Additionally, the most important players from both sides of the ball were lost during their win over the Jets. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an ankle sprain and last season’s most dominant defensive player, Nick Bosa, was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Garoppolo returned last week, but his play, which included a pair of first half interceptions gave rise to the conversation that he is not yet right. This week, head coach Kyle Shanahan has left his quarterback off the injury report, and hopes his play on Sunday night will rekindle hopes that the 49ers offensive star is back to the player who led San Francisco from the cellar to the Super Bowl over the past three seasons.
While the 49ers endure the problems that seem to routinely dog the team that loses the Roman numeral game the season before, the Rams are back after they suffered a similar fate last season.
After a year in which much of their preseason was spent defending the diminishing returns on their once explosive runningback, Todd Gurley, the Rams have returned to prominence this season while Gurley is now toiling in the winless Atlanta Falcons backfield. Maligned for his play in Los Angeles’ Super Bowl LIII loss to the New England Patriots and 2019 campaign, quarterback Jared Goff is back to the standards he set in the Rams championship year.
The Rams have won four of five games this season and had a furious comeback that fell short of marking their biggest comeback victory in history in their only loss. In Buffalo, the Rams overcame a 25 point second half deficit to briefly take a lead before falling to the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills, 35-32.
So, is this one easy?
This one parallels a game last year when the 49ers were on their way to the Super Bowl and the Rams were struggling through their season-after a Super Bowl loss woes.
The two teams met at Levi’s Stadium last December, and the Super Bowl bound 49ers were favored by a touchdown over the struggling Rams, who had lost the week before at Dallas by 23 points.
From a wide perspective, this appeared a great spot for the 49ers to roll the Rams, a team they defeated early in their championship season in Los Angeles, 20-7. But, games are much more pinned to unique situations that dictate a result on a particular day than any oversimplification.
Yes, last year it was the 49ers year and not the Rams, but on that Sunday night in Santa Clara the 49ers needed a comeback to eke out a win and the Rams had the easy point spread triumph in a 34-31 decision.
This year, it is much more a Rams season, but this Sunday night, with the 49ers coming off an embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins, 43-16, and the Rams coasting into town expecting an easy win, the unique particulars on this contest lean San Francisco’s way.
Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (+3) over Los Angeles Rams